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Back Pain Health Center

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Few Parents Check Their Child's Backpack

Do You Know How Heavy Your Child's Load Is?

WebMD Health News

Dec. 20, 2002 -- Despite recent warnings from health organizations and the media, few parents have any idea how much heavy lifting their child is doing by toting their backpack around on a daily basis. A new survey shows only about 4% of the parents of elementary school children who were carrying the heaviest loads had ever checked the weight of their child's backpack.

Researchers say backpack-related injuries account for more than 10,000 trips to the emergency room or doctor each year among school-age children. And many professional organizations now recommend that a child carry a backpack that weighs no more than 10%-15% of their body weight to reduce their risk of injury or posture problems.

But the study, published in the January 2003 issue of Archives of Disease in Childhood, found that about 25% of the students in elementary schools in Texas routinely carried backpacks that weighed at least 10% of their body weight. In fact, the average weight of the backpacks was about 11 pounds or around 14% of their body weight.

Most (96%) of the parents of these heavy haulers had never checked the weight of their child's backpack, and a third had never checked the contents at all. Researchers also found that children whose parents never checked their backpacks tended to carry the heaviest loads and more textbooks than other children.

"It is easy to underestimate the large supply demands required of children in our modern education system," write study author Bryan Lane, MD, of the Northside Family Practice clinic in Temple, Texas, and colleagues. "Carrying a day's worth of books, supplies, gym clothes, and the myriad of items treasured by children for many hours is a difficult task."

The study authors say parents should be more alert about how much their child is carrying to school and help their children follow these safety precautions to reduce the risk of injury:

  • Use a backpack with wide, padded straps and back padding.
  • Wear the straps on both shoulders and adjust them so the pack rests properly on the back, not below the waist.
  • Empty out unnecessary items.
  • Know the safe weight limit of the backpack for the child's weight (less than 10%-15% of their body weight.
  • Lift the pack with bent knees when picking it up.

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